Cannabis: Emerging Evidence for Treating Mental Health Problems
Medical marijuana has been reported to have potential therapeutic effects for patients suffering from pain, nausea, gastrointestinal disorders, and muscle spasticity. Yet its potential application for treating mental health problems is currently not well understood. Mental health problems are detrimental to the well-being of those affected leading to critical psychological distress in the general population. Although it is too soon to recommend cannabinoid-based interventions, there is emerging evidence for treating mental health problems.
Alterations in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) have been associated with specific mental health problems. The ECS is a vital, complex cell-signaling system which is responsible for maintaining bodily homeostasis. The ECS is composed of enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids, which are a family of neurotransmitters produced naturally by your body. Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), function as endocannabinoids, specifically they bind to receptors in your ECS.
Animal and clinical studies have studied the role of Cannabinoid receptor Type-1 (CB-1), of which are expressed predominantly by cells in the central nervous system, and Cannabinoid receptor Type-2 (CB-2), of which are expressed predominantly by immune cells and peripheral nerve terminals, in neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. For example, female patients with depression have exhibited a decrease in a specific endocannabinoid, called the 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), which is responsible for the activation of CB-1. A deregulation of the ECS has also been linked to eating disorders.
Cannabinoid receptors are linked to emotional and cognitive regulation, which are significantly affected functions in neuropsychiatric disorders, As the ECS is important for emotional homeostasis and cognitive function, it may be exploited for the treatment of mental health problems. Case studies suggest that CBD may be beneficial for treating a range of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep disorder. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. Clinical studies have cautioned the use of high-THC products for patients with anxiety or psychotic disorders, due to the cannabinoid’s psychoactive effects. However, a hybrid of CBD and THC has been studied as the CBD may modulate the psychoactive effects of THC.
Terpenoids, a constitute of cannabis made up of volatile organic compounds, produce various biological effects. Terpenoids have affected animal and human behaviour and displayed therapeutic effects for depression, and anxiety. These non-cannabinoid plant components have been found to act synergistically with THC to influence the overall psychoactive effects of cannabis – this proposed mechanism is known as the entourage effect.
Pre-clinical and limited clinical evidence supports CBD as a potential treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders. Although the recent evidence demonstrates anti-psychotic effects, strong clinical research is required to conclude CBD as an effective treatment, as well as a long-term assessment of potential risks. Several studies have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of developing mental health problems, specifically schizophrenia and substance use disorders. Currently the evidence is nascent to support cannabinoid-based interventions for mental health problems.
If you would like more information on therapeutic effects of cannabis, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Smart Leaf Health Services. Schedule an appointment today and we will connect you with the right qualified physician covered by Alberta Health, and Health Canada Approved Licensed Producers.